Proposed Medical Free Zone to Curb Capital Flight, Says NEPZA Boss

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By James Emejo and Folalumi Alaran

The Managing Director/Chief Executive, Nigeria Export Process (NEPZA), Prof. Adesoji Adesugba has said the proposed medical free zone project will revolutionalise the healthcare sector and put an end to medical tourism in the country.

He said state governors who had already assessed the benefits derivable from the proposed project are currently jostling to have the zones located in their respective states.

Speaking when he received the President, Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN), Dr. Pamela Ajayi who paid him a courtesy visit, in Abuja, Adesugba said the several approaches from state governments to skew the location of the country’s novel medical free zone to their states had been overwhelming.

He said the federal government through NEPZA was prepared to sight the project in a state that met all the requirements, adding that the authority would not relax any of its guidelines in the process due to the sensitive nature of sector.

He stressed that the push by the states already demonstrated the acceptability of the project premised upon its viability adding NEPZA is however, exploring the possibility of situating the project in more than one state.

He explained: “Deliberations on modalities for the creation of the zone have reached an advance stage because we indeed drew members of the committee from the right places. Medical experts, zone experts, industrialists, medical equipment manufacturers, are among those on the committee and this explains the speed of our progress.

“This project is dear to our hearts as it is aimed at ending the about $1 billion expended on medical tourism annually by Nigerians. Our aim is to bring to Nigeria, some of the best hospitals in abroad that our people spend this huge amount of money to the zone.”

In a statement by Head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA, Mr. Martins Odeh, NEPZA MD said:”We are expecting a total of 15 world class foreign hospitals and a handful from within the country that could deliver impeccable services at take-off by 2021. Already we have captured the project in our 2021 budget.

“The Healthcare Federation of Nigeria has some of its affiliates that are already buying into this great opportunity to invest in. Aside from the fact that zone operators have 100 per cent return on investments, no investment made in the medical zone in Nigeria will evaporate.”

Ajayi, however, said that the proposed zone when developed would repositioned the health sector, adding that such a destination would ignite healthy competition between local and foreign healthcare providers.

She said: “We must begin to encourage Local Direct Investment (LDI) and reduce the hype on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as far as this project is concern.

“Doing so would reduce the country’s human capital flight in the medical sector and also encourage those that had left to return home. Indian did it and Indians are reaping bountifully from such political decision.”